We Mainers love our coleslaw; Saturday night baked beans and hot biscuits with fresh and crunchy coleslaw. Traditional lobster feeds with a side of creamy coleslaw, corned-beef sandwiches bursting with slaw, even at barbecues and picnics, a bowl is always a welcome treat.
Originating from the Netherlands, koolsla, or cabbage salad, features crisp shredded green or purple cabbage with a mayonnaise or vinaigrette dressing. Shredded carrots, chopped celery, apple or pineapple chunks, savory onion, sweet red peppers, even bacon or ham can all be part of the mix. There are as many variations of recipes as there are cooks!
Cabbage, slaw’s primary ingredient, has sustained human populations for centuries. The first cabbages were brought to the United States by the French explorer Jacques Cartier on his ocean crossing in 1541-42.
An excellent source of vitamins K and C, cabbage is an especially important winter food, as the tightly packed heads with overlapping leaves grow better than lettuces in cold weather, and store extremely well in the root cellar.
An important food during the Dark Ages, cabbage salads were abundant in both peasant and affluent cuisines. Today, worldwide consumption of cabbage is about 6 pounds per person annually, with China producing almost half of the crop.
Most recipes for coleslaw use mayonnaise as a base for dressing. Other variations include buttermilk or a dressing laced with sugar. For those who don’t enjoy mayonnaise or sugary dressings, try the recipe for Coleslaw with Creamy Pickle Dressing.
Prepared in much the same manner as traditional slaw, Coleslaw with Creamy Pickle Dressing uses pickles, yogurt and olive oil instead of mayonnaise and sugar. What kind of pickles? Sweet bread and butter pickles, crunchy dill pickles, or mouth-puckering sour pickles and their juice are all delicious in this variation.
This salad recipe accommodates a wide variety of fresh vegetables, scales up easily to feed a crowd, travels simply to a potluck supper, and keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.